Joining us on our World Cup Blog team, starting Tuesday, will be David Hirshey, known both as "one of America's leading soccer experts" (Soccer America) and "an insufferable soccer poet" (Tony Kornheiser). We're honored to have him penning the World Cup Daily Closer throughout the tournament.
In his day job, David is the senior vice president and executive editor of HarperCollins Publishers, where he has edited some of our favorite sports books (Jeff MacGregor's "Sunday Money" and Will Blythe's "To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever") as well as the autobiographies of Mia Hamm and David Beckham, with whom he once had a conversation while wearing a sarong (Beckham, not Hirshey). Most recently, he appeared in the Miramax documentary Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, where he played himself with reasonable accuracy. Last month, he published Matt Weiland's and Sean Wilsey's "The Thinking Fan's Guide To The World Cup." Hirshey nevertheless promises that, for us, he will go light on the thinking and heavy on the drinking.
Herewith, to start us off, his picks for the Final Four.
Brazil: Too easy? So sue me. Now that coach Carlos Alberto Parraira has lifted the ban on sex, Ronaldo, who goes through supermodels and buffet lines like he does defenses, will run rampant and cement his place alongside Pele and Romario in the Holy Trinity of Brazilian goal scorers.
England: Beanpole striker Peter Crouch may look like a Caucasian Manute Bol, but he's a lot more deadly at putting balls in the net. A word of warning: Don't try his his joint-popping Robot goal celebration at home. You're liable to end up in a junkyard.
Italy: I was in Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium the last time Italy hoisted the Cup. It was 1982, and the Azzurri were led by a whippet-like striker named Paolo Rossi, who had served a two-year ban for his role in a match-fixing scandal. So stop fretting about the current disgrazia and repeat after me: Forza Italia!
Argentina: While it's difficult to take a team seriously that is coached by someone named Pekerman, bet against the Argentines at your own peril. Next to Brazil, they have the most attacking firepower in the world, and if Riquelme has recovered from choking on his penalty kick against Arsenal in the Champions League semi, they could even give a big wedgie to their thong-loving South American rivals.
(NOTE: Neither of the men in the picture is David Hirshey.)